Originally posted on 21 November 2011
Last edited on 23 June 2015
Source: Official site

Fatal Frame II: Designing Fear

Excerpt from the 12 December issue of Dreammag, vol. 22, Softbank Publishing Co.

Project manager: Jin Hasegawa
Designing Fear

―There are lots of horror games around, but Fatal Frame has its own unique kind of fear. If I had to compare it to something, maybe the fear of having been left behind...?

Hasegawa: Fatal Frame creates its fear but combining lots of different things. In terms of the screen, the first thing is lighting. The numbers and types of lights are different from those in the first game, and even come from places they normally (or realistically) would not. I believe that the balance between light and dark is the only thing connected to fear. For example, if there was an unnatural shadow over there (pointing to the other end of the hallway blocked by a wall), wouldn't that be kind of scary? It's difficult to make something unnatural look natural, but it can't just be dark.

Next, in order to give it some atmosphere, we put fog across the whole screen to give it a subtle sense of depth. Then we worked to make it so that you would get this gradual feeling of unpleasantness, augmenting the strength of the dither and contrast pixel by pixel. The effect also changes depending on whether you're looking through the viewfinder or not.

Finally, the camera angles. We naturally took out anything that impaired playability, fine-tuning the scariest places right up until the deadline.

―Making pretty images seem worn to create a look. You also put in black and white cutscenes during the game that look like flashbacks...

Hasegawa: That was brought up by Mr. Shibata (the director) and myself. When we were making the first game we actually made the images in super high contrast, using black and white alone, doing experimental things as we went like adding blur effects. It got so scary that we thought it might be banned from sale, but people would either love or hate it (laughs). We want as many people to play it as possible, so we couldn't have the entire thing play like that. Because of this, and also to set a tempo, we purposely messed up the things that were in pretty full colour and used them appropriately.

―And so by adding that to the story and sound, the fear is complete?

Hasegawa: If a single one was lacking, it wouldn't be scary. I can't talk about the story here, but we actually create the world first and then fit the story around it. For the sounds, we also went to real old Japanese houses and recorded the sounds of things like walking on tatami mats or the noise that sliding screens make. We had a bunch of people play it during development, but it still wasn't scary, so we'd modify things... The troubles of this process turned into motivation, and at the very, very end we managed to complete a game that was scary just to walk around in.

―This is a game you're proud of, but Mr. [omitted] says there's still a way to go.

Hasegawa: Fear that appeals to the imagination is interesting. There are things we couldn't do because of hardware limitations, as well as things we did do that we can improve on even further in the future, so there's still a lot of room for investigation. I do think, though, that for now we've managed to get a kind of establishment, so please let yourself be terrified by the world, story, and massive scare attraction that we've created.